US/Mexico: Binational effort helps rescue border fence mural

By Jonathan Clark
Nogales International
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A community mural painted on the border wall separating the U.S. and Mexico was saved from the scrap heap last week through a binational effort, and an artist who was integral to its creation and salvation says he hopes the artwork, which represents popular resistance, will one day rise again at its original location.

The 60-foot-long mural, titled “Vida y Sueños de la Cañada Perla,” or “Life and Dreams of the Perla Ravine,” was painted by people from both sides of the border in 2005 on the Sonoran face of the landing-mat fence running through Ambos Nogales, a few hundred yards west of the DeConcini port.

It’s a replica of a mural painted in 1998 by Tzetzal Indians on the façade of the community center of Taniperla, Chiapas to represent their lives and dreams after declaring themselves part of an autonomous Zapatista revolutionary municipality. However, on April 11, 1998, a day after the mural and the autonomous municipality were inaugurated, the Mexican Army retook control of the town, destroyed the mural and jailed the man who had directed its creation, university professor Sergio Valdez.

The mural: Community members from both sides of the border painted a replica of “Vida y Sueños de la Cañada Perla” on the landing-mat fence in Nogales, Sonora in the spring of 2005.

Nogales, Sonora-based artist Guadalupe Serrano, who along with his creative partner Alberto Morackis brought Valdez to the border city for the re-creation project in 2005, said that after U.S. crews replacing the 2.8-mile-long landing-mat fence with a taller, stronger barrier reached the downtown area last month, city officials warned him that the “Vida y Sueños” replica might also be destroyed.

At the same time, he said, he learned that wheels had also begun to turn in Arizona in an effort to save the mural.

“What happened was that in Tucson, there’s an organization called the Sierra Club, and a guy from that organization named Dan Millis got in touch with Congressman Raul Grijalva,” Serrano said.

In a letter dated June 8, Millis, along with Kim Roseman of the K. Newby Gallery in Tubac, Susannah Castro of the Tubac Center of the Arts and Bob Phillips of the Santa Cruz Community Foundation, urged Grijalva to investigate the status of “Vida y Sueños” and other nearby fence art and iconic graffiti, “and act to ensure that these cultural resources are protected for future generations.”

Grijalva responded by dispatching staffer Ruben Reyes to coordinate with the Border Patrol (a Grijalva spokesman said the agency was “very cooperative”), who then worked with contractor Granite Construction to arrange a safe takedown and handover of the mural panels to Serrano. Continue reading